Euro 2020 (Group Stages – Part Three)
Italy ensured they finished top of Group A as they beat Austria 2-1 in the Stadio Olimpico on Saturday evening. The Austrians had already qualified for the knock-out stages, but found themselves 2-0 down inside the opening hour to hosts Italy, with Federico Chiesa scoring for the second success game to send the Italians top, with Marcel Sabitzer grabbing a consolation goal. The other group game saw Turkey and Finland play out a 1-1 draw in Baku, Turkey picking up their first point of the tournament as a result, but neither side doing enough to progress to the latter stages. Norwich City striker Teemu Pukki came off the bench to give Finland the lead before Ahmed Kutucu ensured the Turkish didn’t finish the tournament without a point.
Monday saw the conclusion of Groups B and C. With Denmark looking to have already ensured qualification after winning their opening 2 games, all eyes were on who would potentially join them, and it was Russia, who in turn topped the group, defeating Denmark 1-0 in Saint Petersburg, who made it through to the next round. A goal just 7 minutes in by Zelinkhan Bakaev was enough for victory, Daniel Wass of Valencia playing the whole game but unable to prevent his country slipping to the defeat. Ukraine, who had also hoped to progress, were beaten 1-0 by Poland, who picked up their first win, in Copenhagen, seeing them end up bottom of the group.
France were looking to find a path out of the challenging Group C, and did so with an impressive 3-2 victory over a Belgian side who had won both games and already looked like worthy group winners. Bucharest played host as the two European heavyweights squared off in an encounter that would have been worthy of the final. Belgium took the lead from the spot through Romelu Lukaku, but France found themselves level just 6 minutes later. The Belgians again took the lead before the break, but after half time France showed greater resolve, scoring twice to secure the win and progress alongside the Belgians. It proved a tournament to forget for the Netherlands, however, as they were once again beaten in Amsterdam, this time crashing to a 1-0 defeat against Bosnia thanks to a last minute goal from Deni Milosevic.
Tuesday saw Group D reach it’s conclusion, and as expected England topped the group, following up their impressive victory over Portugal with a 2-0 defeat of Scotland at Hampden Park. Goals from Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Tammy Abraham were enough to beat their near neighbours on their own turf. Portugal ensured they would be joining England, bouncing back from that defeat to beat Sweden 2-1 at Wembley. Manchester City midfielder Bernardo Silva, no stranger to the national stadium in England, gave Portugal the lead, which was confirmed by Diogo Jota before a late consolation goal from Sweden, who finish 3rd in the group.
The Group stages concluded on Wednesday evening with the final games in Group E & F, with only former European and World champions Spain having ensured qualification. The Spanish ensured a perfect qualification round, making it 3 wins from 3, with a comfortable 2-0 win over Kosovo. With qualification guaranteed, several players were rested, meaning Valencia midfielder Carlos Soler played the full game in San Mamés, while José Gayà sat out. The Czech Republic ensured they would be joining them, a 2-1 victory over Switzerland thanks to a double from West Ham star Tomas Soucek enough to carry them through, Switzerland being reduced to 10 men in Dublin after Granit Xhaka received a red card.
Group F still had both spots up for grabs, and it was Germany and Croatia who did enough to progress. Germany chalked up a 2-0 victory against Wales, who finished bottom of the group with just 1 point, in Munich, while over in Budapest a solitary goal from Ivan Perisic was enough to give Croatia the win over Hungary to see them also reach the knockout stages.
The pick of the second round ties sees France take on Italy at Wembley, while San Mamés in Bilbao will see Russia square off against Finland in what is sure to be a feisty encounter. Tournament favourites Spain head to Scotland to face Poland, while England, considered by many as an outside threat, hop just over the Irish sea as they face Croatia.Share this: